According to Triple-A Bulls pitching coach, Kyle Snyder, it is easy to tell when Brent Honeywell is on top of his game. And Wednesday, the Rays' No. 2 prospect showed his best stuff.
Honeywell allowed four hits and struck out seven without a walk over six innings to lead Triple-A Durham over Columbus, 11-0, at Huntington Park.
"You could tell that the body control was there from the start of the game. The adjustability was there too," Snyder said. "If he got big on a particular pitch in his delivery, he was able to make the adjustment on the next pitch. That's what it comes down to, now that he's got the innings beneath him that he does. It's about being able to make the necessary adjustment to what the hitters are doing against him."
Honeywell retired the side in order in the first inning and induced a 4-6-3 double play to work around a leadoff single by Richie Shaffer in the second.
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The Clippers had runners on first and second with nobody out in the third, but Honeywell smoothly fielded a bunt by Josh Wilson to get the lead runner for the first out. The 2014 first-round pick then struck out Abraham Almonte and Tyler Naquin to escape the jam.
"He's got an extra gear when he needs it and he's got a high baseball IQ for a 22-year-old in Triple-A," Snyder said. "Trusting those instincts and understanding how he's arrived at certain counts within an at-bat, whether it's reading swings or just knowing what the next pitch should consist of, he understands where the value lies and what the hitter is suggesting to him and how he can achieve the swing-and-miss in the two-strike counts."
After giving up a single to Giovanny Urshela to begin the fourth, Honeywell retired six in a row, including whiffs of Chris Colabello, Mike Papi and Adam Moore, to get through the fifth. MLB.com's No. 24 overall prospect worked around Almonte's soft line-drive single in the sixth and ended his outing by striking out Shaffer.
Video: Durham's Honeywell finishes the sixth
"He had it all working. Fastball command was good, the changeup was excellent and his two-strike execution improved as the outing unfolded. Those were the few things that stood out to me," Snyder added.
Honeywell started the season with Double-A Montgomery but was summoned to Durham after just two starts for the Biscuits. Since his promotion, the Georgia native has made 11 starts for the Bulls, producing a 4.22 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder has struck out 28 percent of the batters he's faced with the Bulls and ranks third in the International League with 71 punchouts.
"Count control is something we prioritize. Staying in pitcher counts and not beating yourself," Snyder added. "Being able to control the count from pitch one is always going to favor us and that's something we're always going to emphasize going forward. You force defensive swings if you stay ahead in the count. And at that point, it's just about executing with two strikes. If we stay away from predictable counts where the opponent is going to expect a fastball, it's going to serve him well."
Rehabbing Major Leaguer Brad Boxberger struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh before Ryne Stanek and Adam Kolarek finished off the shutout.
Wilson Ramos, who signed with the Rays this offseason but has yet to play for them due to an ACL injury suffered late last season, went 1-for-3 and caught seven innings for the Bulls.
Durham right fielder Shane Peterson finished a triple short of the cycle and drove in two runs.